Princess Diana Memorial Playground, London

Princess Diana Memorial Playground is in Kensington Gardens next to the palace. It has an excellent range of equipment suitable for children under 12, all adults must be accompanied by a child. There is a queuing system for when the playground reaches maximum capacity but on the plus side this really makes a difference to the playground not feeling too over-crowded, especially during peak season when other places can often be uncomfortably packed. Further details of this playground can be found on the website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/sports-and-leisure/diana-memorial-playground

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There are giant musical instruments set in pretty natural surroundings.
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Lovely natural wooden playground with lots of equipment.
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Sensory garden
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Wet sand
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There is an impressive pirate ship in the centre of the playground.
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There is a stream to paddle in with a stone crocodile.
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The playground is set in beautiful surroundings and it has a wonderful calm vibe.
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Great shade for a warm day.

Summer Fun: Parks and Paddling

Editors Note: Update 09/05/16 See here for latest information on splash park and paddling pool opening times for summer season 2016 and links to official websites

 

 

 

We have enjoyed visiting a range of places over summer and we especially loved finding fun places to cool down on the wonderful hot days we had! Here are some of the places we have been over July and August…

 

This is Stockwood Park Discovery Centre in Luton. It has an interesting museum and lovely playground, free entry. (The bus is not always there and was not open during our visit unfortunately, she still loved running around it though!) http://www.lutonculture.com/stockwood-discovery-centre/stockwood-discovery-centre/

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Highfield park in St Albans has lots of green space and hidden pockets containing little play areas dotted around, plus there is also a tree trail. The leaflet for the tree trail is available at Charters Health Club. “The Trail is 3km (2miles) long and follows a circular route. The trail identifies 25 different trees, each with a numbered way marker, the leaflet provides you with interesting facts about the various trees.” The Highfield Park summer fete this year included an agility show, much to Squiggle’s delight! There are a few other events held at the park throughout the year. http://www.highfieldparktrust.co.uk/index.php/visiting-the-park-mainmenu-33

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This is Leighton Buzzard park. As well as a lovely playground suitable for a range of ages it also has an excellent splash park to. Squiggle loved it but it was far too busy to get any pictures!

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This is Morris Playing Field in London Colney. It has a small paddling pool and play area, as well as a football pitch and tennis courts.

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We enjoyed a day trip to Southend to paddle in the sea and play in the sand. There is a small children’s climbing frame on the beach next to a large fun fair. This picture makes it look rather less crowded that it really was though!

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We also enjoyed looking for crabs, Squiggle was fascinated watching them…

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We love Verulamium park. Lots to do in this massive beautiful parkland including feed the ducks (duck food can be puchased from Inn On The Park cafe), let off steam in the play area and cool down in the splash park (again too many other people in the background of our pictures to publish them!) There are also tennis courts, football pitches, an outdoor gym and Roman remains. http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks-and-green-space/parks/Verulamium-Park/

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Wick nature reserve in St Albans is a hidden gem for us. Popular with dog walkers and families alike but this place never seems to get very busy as many locals don’t even know about it! There is a little play area, small woods and green space. Great place to go exploring!

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Having lived in St Albans for most of my life, this local recreation ground on Sherwood Avenue had remained secret from us until this summer.

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Fleetville park in St Albans has recently been refurbished in the section aimed at older children and also now has an outdoor gym.

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Cassiobury park in Watford has a lot to offer. A paddling pool area with three large paddling pools (one heated), a lovely playground, miniature train (£1) and river walks (also good for paddling and watching canal boats).

 

 

 

And of course plenty of opportunities to splash around in the paddling pool at home…

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Last but not least, this does not technically belong on this post as it is not a park (nor a place to paddle) but the indoor beach at Centre: MK (throughout August only) was definitely worth a visit to.

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Development is not a race- the joy of seeing fine motor skill progress at her own pace

Here is squiggle’s writing development over the past few months, since she first decided to pick up a pen in order to try to write:

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This was her mark making in February 2013
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This was her ‘writing’ in May 2013
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June 2013- starting to form letters, some correctly. This says ‘book, bus, london’
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‘happy fathers day’ (15th June 2013)
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‘grandad’ (written backwards!) June 2013

And here is her drawing development (see the creative development page for 2011-2012 for comparison)…

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London eye drawing March 2013
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This is a map of St Albans she drew in April 2013
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This is her drawing of a person 9th May 2013
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Big Ben drawn and cut out independently May 2013
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London eye and a london bus June 2013
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London bus with a funny face drawn in late June 2013
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People in a garden looking at flowers June 2013
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Crocodile June 2013
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Observation drawing from a book 25th June 2013
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Funfair wheel 9th July 2013 (the circles in the middle are the cogs she noticed while riding on it)
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A very busy paddling pool! July 2013
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She copied the picture her dad had drawn for her and then added her own ideas to. July 2013
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Pigs on a swing 10th July 2013

A simple day in the garden

Today Squiggle decided to spend all day playing outside in the garden. As soon as she went outside one of our cats, Gingerbread, followed her and promptly started to drink some dirty rain water that had pooled up on her sand pit cover. This got her wondering about our cat’s eating and drinking habits so she developed her own experiment to find out what he prefers.

She collected some grass (as she has seen our cats eat this) and two containers, one for wet grass and one for dry. She then asked if she could put some cat crunchies in one of them, so I took this opportunity to explain the concept of a ‘fair test’. She decided she would therefore put an equal number in each and only change the wet/ dry aspect (we should have used the same containers to of course, we discussed this later!) She then observed him to see what he ate most of. She discovered he seemed to prefer wet and concluded this was possibly because he could then both eat the food and drink the water to. She even gave the mixture a name ‘cat lick’ and said it is produced in a place called ‘Gingerbread Gardens’.

(Please note our cat was a willing participate in this investigation, I would go as far as to say he very enthusiastic in fact; we did however talk in brief about it being entirely up to him whether or not he chose to take part though obviously!)

She had her lunch outside in the garden, where she spontaneously did some adding up with the food items. Later when it started raining she became fascinated with watching snails. We talked about them in detail, discussing their differently coloured and patterned shells, studying them carefully and observing them. We also counted them, then she carefully handled some.

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Explaining to our cat what she is doing
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Observing to see what he eats most of
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Writing her instructions
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Explaining to him that she has made a book for him
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Reading the instruction book to him
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Finding snails in the rain
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She found it fascinating to watch them
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Holding snails with care
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How many snails can you see?

Supporting current interests and finding new ways of ‘strewing’

Squiggle loves it when we have our food shopping delivered, she loves seeing what colour the van will be then helping to carry the bags into the kitchen and finding out what was ordered. So I decided to turn this into a potential opportunity by ordering an alphablocks magazine, since ordinarily she would ignore magazines on the supermarket shelves and reject any suggestion to buy one, but I thought it might be another useful method to help develop her reading and writing skills. She found it ‘hidden’ in the shopping bag and was very excited she had been bought a ‘present’. She couldn’t wait to play the free word game before enthusiastically asking me to help her read the magazine together. Great result for my new strewing method!

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Playing the word making game, spelling out ‘pig’

A couple of days ago we were walking to the park when we walked past a man with a poodle. Previously nervous around dogs, she unexpectedly put her hand out to stroke the dog as he went past. Myself and the very supportive owner gently explained it is best to check a dog is friendly and wants strokes before reaching out, then gave her the opportunity to pet the very excited dog who kept licking her, which she loved! Later on we walked past a lady walking her dog and Squiggle loudly asked if it was ok to stroke her, which the dog (and owner) were happy for her to do. The rest of the day was spent talking about dogs, playing with her dog sylvanian toys and acting out dogs. Fast forward to Saturday. After music class we were deciding where to go next when I remembered an email I had received from Littlebird about a Pet Show at Earls Court and thought it would be a good way to extend her new found interest in dogs. We drove down there and had a lovely time learning about different breeds of dogs and enjoyed seeing other animals to. She particularly loved seeing a dancing dog!

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Outside London Pet Show
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Stroking the horse during a grooming demonstration
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Poodle
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Irish Red Setter
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Greyhound
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Rottweiler
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She loved meeting the dog character
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Dancing with a cat!
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Petting a hamster

Since we were close by we then popped to the Science Museum to play in the Basement.

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Water play
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Quiet ‘room’
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Light and colour
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Working steam engine
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Working wheel

On the way home we drove past Big Ben and the London Eye, she was so excited because we happened to pass by at exactly 3 o’clock so we heard the chimes. She had been hoping to hear them so was exceptional timing! A lovely end to a lovely day.

Van Hage- it really is more than just a garden centre!

We went to Van Hage today, not for the first time, but I really think it deserves a mention as a great (and FREE) family trip out. In addition to things you might typically expect to find in a garden centre there is a lovely animal garden. They have a range of animals there and offer opportunities to interact with some of the animals at weekends and during school holidays (see website for details). There is even a miniature train ride (small charge of 80p per passenger applies).

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Stroking a snake at the reptile encounter today.
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She had the opportunity to touch a lizard.
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The chickens roam around freely and some are happy to be touched.
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They have a lovely range of animals.
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Looking at the giant bunnies and goats.
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She was able to stroke a tortoise today as well.
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We enjoy looking at the pretty displays.
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There are fun facts and activities in the animal garden.
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She learnt she was about the same height as a penguin.
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There is lots of useful information available.
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There are lots of flowers to look at to of course!
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The pet shop has a resident cat.
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There are lots of interesting things to look at in general.

 

Definitely worth a visit! See website for more details of events and activities http://www.vanhage.co.uk/garden-centres/great-amwell/

A heartfelt thank you to Trabolgan

A while back I posted about my daughter’s interest in Barney and the various activities she did related to the Numbers Numbers episode. Sometime later she asked if she could write to Barney and his friends to “make sure they are happy”. She made a card and also chose to send some of her colouring pictures as a present to them.

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Here she is making the cards. She had a go at ‘writing’ the messages herself first then asked me to scribe for her.

 

Unsure where to post it to I came across the website for a holiday village in Cork, Ireland called Trabolgan Holiday Village (http://www.trabolgan.com/) and decided to post it there. I would like to say at this point that I have not (YET!!) been here and we of course had no expectations as to what response we might get from them, although I know she was hoping for a reply of some kind. She was certainly not disappointed! In fact she could not have been more excited and we all found the kindness and thoughtfulness really quite overwhelming.

Trabolgan response
Care and effort were taken over the letters sent to her in response as well as generous gifts.

They even emailed pictures of Barney holding her letter and a sign saying Thank you! We were all very touched by all of this and they truly went above and beyond what we ever could have imagined in reply. If this was anything to go by, this holiday village will be an exceptional place to visit. We cannot wait to visit Trabolgan and look forward to booking soon!

 

Thank you to the staff  who took the time to do all of this, it means so much.

 

Please note Trabolgan did NOT ask me to write this blog post, it is simply meant as a thank you for their act of kindness.

Multiple mini topics

Over the past weeks she has been following several interests simultaneously; clocks, flowers and triangles (amongst other things of course). She developed a strong interest in Big Ben after watching a recorded clip of the New Years Eve fireworks held in London, which has extended to a fascination with clocks in general and a desire to learn how to tell the time. She is now able to read o’clocks and is starting to grasp half past and quarter past/ quarter to. She also played a Big Ben internet game, which included learning a variety of interesting facts about Big Ben. She was also very excited to learn Big Ben is 7, 408 hula hoops tall!

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She took a photo of NYE fireworks on TV
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Building Big Ben in ELC
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She used duplo to make Big Ben and London Eye
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We visited London, she was very excited to see actual Big Ben.
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Pretending the glow sticks are London Eye with fireworks around them
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She investigated using torches to see the clock in the dark. This was inspired by one of the facts she learnt on the game about Big Ben’s clock face being lit up at night.
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She drew Big Ben and pretended Baby Bop was next to it because she was visiting London to.
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We bought a Big Ben puzzle that we made together as a team.
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She pretended that Bob Builder’s vehicles helped to construct Big Ben.
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She even practices telling the time in the bath!
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Big Ben and London Eye became part of her Hex Bugs game to.
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This is her drawing of the London Eye
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She was fascinated to see the inside of the clock at Centre MK
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Telling the time
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Acting out the internet game that involves cleaning the clock face.

Having noticed the early signs of spring, she became interested in flowers so we have been on walks to look for different colour and types of flowers, have visited garden centres and had fun doing other flower related activities.

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Drawing a flower with chalk at a play session
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Flower chalk drawing
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Mixing up green for her flower painting
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Flower painting work in progress
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Flower painting
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Flower collage
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Flower collage
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Flower face painting by daddy
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Her own flower face painting she did on herself
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She made a flower bed…literally!
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Looking at the flowers in the spring display at Willows Farm
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Exploring flowers using all her senses at Stockwood Discovery Centre
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She noticed the flower pattern inside this old wagon at Stockwood Discovery Centre.
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This is her flower model at KIDS playground.
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Painting a flower at KIDS playground.
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Making up stories with her ‘flower’ characters.

Her interest in triangles seemed to start rather randomly. She has spent much time looking for triangles in the environment, on car journeys and while walking. She has spotted a huge range of triangles in a variety of places. She also chosen to do lots of creative activities making and drawing triangles, for example from straws.

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She painted pipe cleaners then made them into triangles.
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Drawing traingles at a play session on a large board.
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Tactile triangle shape at KIDS playground.
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Wearing a triangle outfit.
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Painting a triangle at a play session.

Sensory Activities

Baking provides lots of sensory input.
Playgrounds offer plenty of vestibular input.
Light ups and flashing toys offer visual input.
This sensory room has lots of toys and resources for sensory input.
Tactile input- porridge oats

Tactile input with rice, porridge oats and pasta messy play.
Sand play is a great sensory activity.
Wet and dry sand play offers different tactile sensory input.
Science museum water play
Sensory play with popcorn (olfactory and tactile input)
There are lots of sensory products that offer sensory stimulation, such as this squidgy tactile mice and cheese.
Flashing light squidgy stars- great sensory toy.
Snow provides excellent sensory input!
Jelly stones tactile activity.
Soil is also a lovely natural sensory resource.
Bubble wrap provides auditory and tactile stimulation.
Water play in the garden.
Vestibular input from trampolines.